Drug use by learners, on or off the schools grounds, is unfortunately a global problem. Drug abuse is blind to income, race or age. Teachers working in “up market” private schools and government-funded schools located in the toughest of neighbourhoods are fighting the same problem. The good news though, is that the fight against drug abuse can be won. Studies have shown that schools that have implemented successful drug-free programmes shared the following common characteristics:
1. Recognise, assess and monitor the problem. Schools must determine the extent and patterns of tobacco, alcohol and other drug use in school, on school grounds and in the community. This is to understand the specific problems that face the school and serve to establish a baseline against which they can monitor their progress.
2. Interact and build a network with community groups and agencies. Schools cannot handle drug problems alone. The most successful drug-free schools work alongside the police and those who can provide counselling and treatment.
3. Set, implement and enforce policy. Teachers, parents, community representatives and learners must work together to develop a clear, strong and consistent policy that forbids the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
4. Create a drug prevention programme. Programmes should be developed to emphasise a consistent no-use message, encourage civic responsibility, a respect for laws, for personal health, the promotion of self-confidence and skills on how to resist negative peer pressure.
5. Train administrators, teachers and support staff, and create positive role models for learners. Training helps staff members develop and create awareness of the physical and psychological effects of drug use and to recognise the signs of drug use by learners.
6. Engage learners in drug-free activities. These not only provide alternatives to drug use, they also develop a learner’s self-esteem and refusal skills.
7. Encourage parent involvement and provide parent education. Schools must help families recognise drug use and respond appropriately. The key is to create a tailored approach that involves parents in the planning and implementation of all activities, and keep their involvement ongoing.
8. Most importantly – the most successful schools look drug problems in the eye and make a commitment to solving them.
Source title: Success Stories from Drug-free Schools: A guide for Educators, Parents, and Policymakers | Office of Education Research and Improvements, Washington DC